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9 Easy Steps For Planting Container Trees and Shrubs

Step 1: Picking Out Your Container Trees or Shrubs

The best way to make sure your trees or shrubs thrive is by picking plants that are compatible with your climate. Before making a purchase, you should take these steps into consideration.

Planting Conditions: Pay attention to water, light, temperature and air circulation around the plot. Find trees and shrubs best suited for the various growing conditions.

Soil Drainage: Test how well the soil drains. To improve drainage, add organic matter to the soil. Some plants like wet areas, whereas others like dry conditions.

Test Soil: Perform a soil test to see if the area needs a nutrient or pH adjustment. You can make small changes, but it is best to select plants most suited to grow in the current conditions.

Step 2: Materials for Planting

You will need these items to plant container trees or shrubs: Shovel and/or mattock Gloves Hose or watering container

Soil conditioner (about half a bag per plant)


Sharp knife A source of phosphorus (such as bone meal) Trees or shrubs

Step 3: Map Locations for Trees and Shrubs

Position Plants: Map out where your plants will be while they are still in the containers. Plan out the right spacing before you begin to dig. Make sure all plants will have space to spread out to its mature size without getting in the way of other plants or structures.

Mark Plant Location: Use your digging tool to make a circle in the soil at least three sizes bigger than the pot’s diameter. If you want to get fancy, you could use marking paint, flags or other types of markers.

Remove Plants: Shift your plants away from the markers to continue.

Step 4: Dig Holes for Trees and Shrubs

The most important part of planting is digging the hole. A wider hole helps the roots spread out properly and lets them settle in quicker.

Dig Hole: The planting hole needs to be a little more shallow than the root ball, but at least three times wider. To keep the plant from sinking, the root ball should sit one inch above ground level. If the soil is really compact, loosen up the sides so the roots can take hold easier.

Step 5: Prepare Trees and Shrubs for Planting

Remove Container: Carefully tip the plant on its side and slide off the container. Be cautious not to rupture any stems or pull too hard on the plant. If the plant feels stuck, you can knock or squeeze the container to loosen the root ball. You may need to cut the container to remove the plant.

Loosen Roots: Lightly cut any roots that are matted or circling with a sharp knife. Circling roots usually keep growing in a circle rather than branching out. Don’t uncoil or break apart the root ball itself! You are just using small cuts to help the roots spread correctly.

Position Plant in Hole: Set all your trees or shrubs in their holes, then step away and eye them up. Inspect the plants to see if they are straight, spaced properly, have the right depth and are facing the direction you prefer.

Step 6: Fill Holes Around Trees and Shrubs

Enrich the Soil: Before filling the holes, mix conditioner and some bone meal in with the soil. Don’t add too much since plants are most resilient when the planting soil is similar to the landscape soil. If the area is very compact or has poor conditions, it may be better to till and enrich the entire plot before planting.

Fill Holes: When ready to fill the holes, don’t pile dirt on the root ball. Keep the soil depth as it was in the pot. Put the dirt back in stages by packing down the soil with layers.

Mound Soil: To help hold water, have extra soil handy to make a small ring shaped mound surrounding your plants. You can use more soil for a barrier to help against runoff, if your plants are on a slope.

Step 7: Water and Adjust Soil Around Trees and Shrubs

Watering Plants: Thoroughly water your newly planted container trees or shrubs. Let the water fully soak into the ground.

Add Soil: As air pockets collapse, the soil will sink. Check your plants continuously and add dirt to any low spots.

Step 8: Mulch Around Trees and Shrubs

Apply Mulch: Add 2in-4in of mulch to protect the plants. Be careful, piling mulch too high can cause disease and rotting.

Step 9: Care for Trees and Shrubs

Watering New Plants: Until your trees or shrubs are established, water your new plants once a week for the first 5-6 weeks. Cut watering back to every 2-3 weeks once there is new leaf growth.

Watering Established Plants: After your trees or shrubs have been established for a season, they should be able to handle normal growing conditions the following year. Though, during dry periods you may need to add extra water.

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